The Beast @ Jalan Klapa

The poster child for southern cuisine is undoubtedly fried chicken, the ultimate comfort food. Lesser known southern classics include pulled pork, bacon, mashed potatoes, grit, cornbread, etc. Note that it’s definitely not for anybody on a clean-eating diet. Here’s what we had when we visited Singapore’s first ever southern restaurant & bourbon bar in the arab street area:

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Started with happy hour beers – $10nett per pint.

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Chili Concarne $14 is a no-brainer when it comes to sharing food among friends. It is hearty, tasty and easy to eat. It was served piping hot and we enjoyed the savoury start to the meal. However we realized later that we were served nacho chips instead of cornbread, that was stated in the menu. We wonder why?

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Chicken & Waffle $20 – Here, half a chicken is deep fried but without the sickening oily feel. The blend of sweet and savory when eaten with the waffles and maple bourbon syrup was perfectly on point. The gluten-free waffles were soft yet crisp. Quite mind blowing and finished this as quickly as it was served. MUST order!

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Jack & The Beast Stalk $12 – if the previous dish was mind blowing, this was definitely earth shattering. In this dish, green beans are deep fried with a SECRET seasoning. We tried getting it out of the waitresses, but they refused to divulge. If we had to hazard a guess, my dining companion said sugar while I say plum. So you can guess that it is sweet. MUST MUST order!

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Portions are big, and I would recommend ordering one dish at a time, as southern food is best enjoyed hot. Only move onto ordering the next after you have finished the previous dish. They cook pretty quickly anyway. Not forgetting the free flow salted popcorn that the waitresses were very happy to top up voluntarily.

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Onto the drinks – All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. The main difference between whiskey and bourbon is that bourbon must be made entirely in the USA. The distinctive flavors are often attributed to the spring water used.

If you are a bourbon beginner, do try their flights. These are sampling platters that allow you to taste three different bourbons. There is an introductory flight ($34) for beginners, or low/high-rye ($34) if you have more specific tastes. We went for the small batch ($36) flight because we wanted something exclusive, followed by a single barrel flight ($38) for a more premium experience.

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With flights, there will definitely be hits and misses but it’s a good way to expose yourself to various spirits, and understand the difference in tasting notes, aromas, palate, aftertaste, etc. If you need guidance, they provide notes for you to study as you drink.

I also tried a couple of cocktails; the Beast Smash, and the Scarlet Sour ($20 each). I requested extra sour for both, and made them doubles. Meanwhile, my dining companion progressed down the bourbon menu, one glass after another ($20 each).

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We also ventured to get shooters ($12 each)! Being a sister bar of Chupitos in clarke quay, they have similar daredevil shooters mixed from the weirdest ingredients. We ordered one of everything from the menu. And I would say Pickleback was the weirdest! It made me feel like snooki! It is bourbon mixed with pickle juice and I absolutely underestimated the intensity of the pickle because it was really overwhelming. It’s like eating a Macdonald’s cheeseburger and you want to pick out the pickles but you can’t in this case!

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Service was stellar – we made friends with every one of the waitresses. They were outgoing, friendly and funny. Bartender was knowledgeable about bourbon, not just about the taste but also the background stories of each distillery. She gave spot on recommendations everytime we requested for a specific type.

Chalks are provided in the bathroom to encourage customers to draw on the walls. No rude messages spotted as far as I know, and shows that the crowd is really decent. LOVED the adventure time cameo.

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In the southern states, it’s never about pretenses. It’s about carelessly over-indulging in too much fried food and good bourbon. And that is exactly what we did one fine Monday night after a hard day’s work. Swap out your heels for some cowboy boots and get ready for a really good time!

The total damage was $330 for 2 people, because we drink too much for our wallets’ good.

There is live music most nights but they failed to sing my song – “Why’d you only call me when you’re high?”

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Dinings @ London

Let this post go out to my dining companion; who brought me here knowing I would love it, who always seems to know what I would order from ANY menu, and who generously picked up the check for this meal. Thank you. (Disclaimer: My horrendous photography obviously does no justice to Dinings)

“Everybody talks about Dinings,” my friend said to me. Here’s why.

Chefs Tomonari Chiba and Masaki Sugisaki hail from Nobu London, but left to found Dinings – a Japanese small plates concept adapted from traditional izakayas. The innovative menu shows European influences, but authenticity and freshness are never compromised under these chefs. They cooked their way to place Dinings at the top of Zagat’s “Best Japanese Restaurants in London”.

For a top restaurant, there is not a trace of pomposity here. The decor is utilitarian and there is no dress code (my partner even advised me to change out of my dress into jeans instead). The waiters are so friendly and knowledgable, eager to talk at length about the menu, from cover to cover. This is because Dinings has always pride themselves on making customers feel comfortable in a friendly atmosphere. Be forewarned that the space can get quite cramped, but I rather enjoyed eavesdropping on neighbouring conversations.

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First dish to arrive was our tartar chips, which are homemade potato crisps, filled with avocado, toro fatty tuna, vegetables and wasabi-jalepeno sauce. This is a signature of Dinings, and there are other variations of these chips if tuna is not your thing. Whatever you do, this is a must order. I had a conversation with my colleague the other day wholly on the chips at Dinings. (£8.50)

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The seabass carpaccio with fresh spring truffle and ponzu jelly, some say the best dish at Dinings (according to our waitress). Get used to it, because every dish here is decadent as hell. Check out the generous layers of truffle on top. The sour and tangy flavours whetted our appetites. However, we noted that if this dish were to come later during the meal we would not like it as much, because the sourness is very strong. (£19.80)

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Tuna tartare with fresh truffle was an off the menu item. Can you tell that I love my starters? (£17.80)

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Wagyu beef tataki with ponzu and porcini oil (£18.85) Picture below from zagat because my own picture sucks.

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Time for some hot food, because everything before this was cold. The grilled aubergine with sweet miso was a beautiful giant half piece of aubergine, great texture (firm yet melt in your mouth), cooked in sweet miso paste and served piping hot! This would convert even eggplant haters! I still dream about the flavour! (£6.70) We also got a miso soup with salmon that is not pictured, (£4.75).

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Seared yellowtail belly with yuzu kyosho (yuzu with a black pepper kick – another signature at Dinings) (£5.45)

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Scottish salmon “zuke” style topped with caramelized onion-soy-jam. (£4.95)

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Seared Yuzu-soy marinated Santa Barbara shrimp sushi topped with kizami-wasabi, which is a Dinings version of wasabi. (£6.45)

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Seared wagyu beef sushi topped with foie-gras and sweet soy (£8.45)

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I always have the best dessert at Japanese restaurants. Below is mustard shiso ice cream, topped with a pork slice. (£6.70) The mustard was mild, yet undeniable. So ingenious and one of the best things I’ve had in life. I like to think of it as a new age salted caramel.

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We booked 2 weeks in advance and the total damage was £150 after tax. Amazing meal and will definitely come back.